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June 30, 2006
Mr. Know-it-all

In a technical workplace, it can sometimes be problematic to the only person who knows a particular technology particularly well — once you help one person fix their problem, they tell everyone, and soon everyone wants a piece of your time — but there are occasions when it can be good to be the go-to guy, in my case for ISDN and PPP.*

The class I was in over the past couple of weeks covered a wide array of networking technologies, and for most of the topics, one or two of the people in the class were already genuine experts, while the rest of us were only passingly familiar with the technology (I am pretty weak on switching, for instance.) For other subjects, most of us were well-experienced, but we paid attention to the presentations because there might always be something we might not have known. For ISDN & PPP, though, it happened that I was the only genuine expert in the class.†

On the day we covered ISDN & PPP, as the instructors (two of them) meandered through the presentation, I noticed some of my colleagues looking towards me, as if they were expecting me to nitpick the presentation. I did, after all, write the book on the subject.‡ At one point, one of the guys across the room IMed me (we all had our laptops), asking "is that right?" I looked over at him, caught his eye, and slowly nodded.

As the class progressed, I realized that more people were looking to me to confirm what was being presented. After the instructors made a statement, my colleagues would look at me quizzically... I would subtly nod.

Then one of the instructors noticed that every time she said something, people were looking towards me. Thereafter, every time a point was made in the presentation, she would look at me, with a metaphorical question mark on her face. I would nod, just a bit....

At the end, my fellow students all looked as though they were watching a ping-pong match.

Only later did it occur to me that I might possibly have been the first ISDN/PPP expert that instructor had ever encountered. At least she didn't try to drag me up in front of the class to finish the presentation.

* What ISDN and PPP do isn't important enough to explain if you don't already know what they are, but if you are using dialup, there's a 99.44% chance that your computer is using one of them to connect to the internet.

Or indeed, throughout the entire department. Which is a shame, really, because I work for a big telecommunications company.

OK, only two chapters (1, 2) of the book. But I did write them.

Posted by Russ at 10:06 PM, June 30, 2006 in Geekery

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